Luverne seniors sign scholarships to play college hoops

Published 7:41 pm Wednesday, April 16, 2014

DeAnthony Rutledge and Shakia Brantley pose together beneath the Luverne High School scoreboard. Both signed full tuition scholarships on April 8 to play junior college basketball.

DeAnthony Rutledge and Shakia Brantley pose together beneath the Luverne High School scoreboard. Both signed full tuition scholarships on April 8 to play junior college basketball.

Luverne High School seniors Shakia Brantley and DeAnthony Rutledge had made plans for their lives after high school.

Brantley was going to attend the University of Alabama at Birmingham and study nursing, while Rutledge would attend tryouts for as many college basketball teams as he could until he found one that would take him on and allow him to play at the next level.

But all that changed April 8 when each signed a scholarship to play college basketball and attend school for free.

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**Shakia Brantley**

Brantley said she didn’t understand the significance at first, when a Wallace Community College coach offered her the scholarship after her 28 points helped down Central Hayneville in January.

“I just smiled,” she said. “Then Coach Parks asked me, ‘don’t you know how good this is?’ and he explained it to me. I was just kind of shocked at first.”

She said when she came to her senses, she eagerly accepted the offer.

It won’t replace her dreams, she said – she will study nursing at Wallace for the two years her scholarship is active, then transfer to UAB to continue the four-year degree,

“Coach told me that junior college is the best place to start off,” she said, “and its an opportunity to play ball, and I love ball, plus they’re paying for it, so why not?”

Brantley said she’s been playing for the varsity team for five years, but has been involved in the sport since she was in second grade.

But it wasn’t until eighth grade that it clicked for her.

“That was when I knew I had the potential to be good and if I put in the work, it would come.”

When asked who she credited for the realization of that potential, her immediate response was a hearty one.

“God,” she said, without hesitation.

“Oh, and my mom and Coach Parks. And Cathy Wilkes. In seventh grade, I told her I couldn’t make a lay-up and sh took me out there and played with me after school every day until I got it. And Julie Albritton, because she never let me quit.”

Brantley also acknowledged her teammates and said they are the reason she fell in love with the sport.

“Basketball is a sport you can’t just play by yourself,” she said.

“I don’t even like doing homework by myself, so I knew it was the sport for me. I know that if I’m stuck, my teammates can pick me up.”

**DeAnthony Rutledge**

Rutledge said playing college basketball has always been a part of his plan, but until he was offered a full athletic scholarship to Southern Union State Community College, he didn’t have anywhere in mind.

Nor does he know what he wants to study, though he plans to also get a masters degree in whatever it ends up being.

But one thing he is sure of is that he wants to play basketball as long as he can.

“Ever since I’ve been playing ball, I knew I wanted to play in college,” he said.

“If I’m blessed enough, I’d like to go to the NBA.”

Rutledge said the scholarship offer came as a relief as it cements the next step in his athletic career.

“It felt good because it was the end of the year and all, and I didn’t really have many options,” he said.

Rutledge said he’s been playing basketball for as long as he can remember, and couldn’t imagine a future without it.

“It started in the backyard, really,” he said. “I just have a love for the game.”

But the highlight of his career, he said, is a game in which he played poorly – the regional championship game Luverne won this season. Like Brantley, he derives his deepest appreciation for the sport from its team nature.

“I didn’t really have a good game, but it’s a team game, so my teammates made up for it,” he said. “It’s just that feeling of winning.”

Both players said practice will start in the fall and they’re looking forward to seeing how they stack up at the next level.

“I just can’t wait to get out there and play some more ball,” Rutledge said.